It's a fact that as tech develops, it shrinks (unless it's a smartphone). The first computers were the size of rooms; calculators needed two hands to lift.
Intel has proved that adage true again, but this time it's not hardware that it's managed to downsize: it's put a neural network on a USB stick.
The Neural Compute Stick 2 is effectively a package of AI tech that developers can use to carry out deep learning neural net testing - which is how AIs learn using what is effectively a computerised take on how human brains pick apart information - and prototype AI algorithms in real-world use.
Much like its 2017 predecessor, the Neural Compute Stick 2 looks like a basic USB thumb drive, but it hides Intel's Movidius Myriad X VPU: a vision processing unit designed to carry out computer vision and image recognition on so-called edge network devices; think smart cameras and augmented reality devices.
Intel claims this is the first stick to feature a neural compute engine for dedicated hardware neural network inference (essentially the technique of putting AI smarts into action) accelerator.
The stick also features Intel's take on the OpenVINO toolkit, which the firm claims gives developers more flexibility when it comes to prototyping.
In practical terms, a developer can slot the stick into a USB 3.0 port on their computer and set it up with AI and computer vision smarts. That stick can then be taken and plugged into something like a smart camera or drone and then set to test out its smart capability; no additional AI-centric hardware is needed.
Nor is any connection back to a central network or cloud needed, as the stick can handle the inference of machine learning algorithms by itself.
Priced at $100 (about £77), it's relatively affordable and could be the gateway device into getting more developers messing around with creating devices that come loaded with AI smarts.
Mind you, at that price, all manner of tech-savvy nutters could turn their hand to making smart things, so who knows what nightmarish future lies ahead of us.... Oh wait, that's Brexit.
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